God Establishes a Kingdom for His People

 

Week of July 7, 2013

 

Bible Verses:  2 Samuel 7:8-17,22-24.

 

Lesson Focus:  This lesson will help you make plans for your life based on God’s greater purposes.

 

Listen to God:  2 Samuel 7:8-11a.

 

[8]  Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.  [9]  And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.  [10]  And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly,  [11]  from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel.  [ESV]

 

[8-11a]  The first part of God’s message to David given via Nathan informs him that he is not to build a temple and sets out some of the reasons for this. First, it could cause theological misunderstanding. God does not and never has been limited to a particular site. The tent in which the ark was placed provided a useful symbol that God was present with the people, but its portability also symbolized that God was with the people wherever they were. The temple could and eventually did provide equivalent ways of maintaining the same truths, but it could also lead people to a false trust in the building itself. It was important that before the temple was built the people understood exactly what it did and did not symbolize and signify. It was a place where they could meet with God, but not the only place that God could be found. They had clearly not yet reached the stage where they could understand fully what was involved. The use of any and all religious objects and symbols must be undertaken carefully with serious thinking about what kind of understanding or misunderstanding might stem from that use. A painting or a sculpture might be a helpful means of encouraging the worship of God, but in some circumstances it could also lead those who revere it to begin to worship the object itself. We must always question whether this really is the right time or place for the institution of a particular ritual. Secondly, God had not asked for a temple. David had made the mistake in the past of assuming that he knew what it was that God wanted. Human values do not always reflect God’s values and the implication must be avoided that God possessed less glory because His ark was placed in a tent rather than a beautiful and expensive modern building. Perhaps David talked with his sons about the dangers involved in the temple project. Certainly, in the prayer of dedication Solomon makes it very clear that the temple was not to be seen as something that limited or restricted God or His glory.

 

The first words of Nathan’s counsel to David in verses 5-7 are introductory and explanatory. Now, however, Nathan is to declare the main substance of Yahweh’s word to David, the very word the Lord of hosts has spoken, and that word is grace. In this section Yahweh rehearses His goodness to David in the past and promises His goodness to David and Israel in the future – and all apart from any temple-building on the king’s part. Yahweh, true to form [John 1:16], promises grace on top of grace. This future grace, however, is not in response to David’s building a house/temple for Yahweh, for Yahweh has rejected that plan for now. David is not to be an active initiator but a passive recipient. Yahweh will not permit David to build a temple-house for Him [5] but insists on building a dynasty-house for David [11]. Not that the temple doesn’t matter; but it can wait a few years down the time-line [13]. Yahweh’s king does not place a claim on Yahweh’s favor by building Him a lavish temple. Instead Yahweh, the giving God, reviews past grace, lavishes more grace – and puts a temple on the back burner. In these verses there are two promises of grace to Israel [10-11a] sandwiched between two promises to David [9,11b]. This structure is revealing; it tells us that Israel’s security is at the center of Yahweh’s concern. Yahweh will make David secure because He wants to make Israel secure: He establishes the Davidic dynasty for the sake of His people. David will not be exalted for his own sake but for the good of Israel. David’s kingship is to be the instrument by which Yahweh’s exodus redemption reaches its goal, that is, to plant them [10] safely in the land He gave them. Yahweh intends David’s kingship to inaugurate a new era; He means to end the terror, trembling, and turmoil of the judges’ years. Yahweh wants His people to have a home and to enjoy it in safety. Living in post-David time we know that the Davidic kings by and large miserably failed to promote a secure place for Israel and/or Judah. The people were, in time, carted off to Babylon and exile. Yet Yahweh never cancels His program. He fills His promises of a future and a hope [Jer. 29:11] with assurances that His people will dwell securely and that no one shall make them afraid [Jer. 23:6; 32:37; 33:16; Ezek. 28:26; 34:25,27,28; Hos. 2:18; Mic. 4:4; Zeph 3:13; Zech. 14:11]. Both in 2 Samuel 7 (where He exalts the king especially as a shield for His people) and the rest of Scripture God never abandons His passion to establish a safe home for His people – at least not until He brings them into a city so safe that gates can be left wide open [Rev. 21:25].

 

Seek God’s Perspective:  2 Samuel 7:11b-17.

 

[11b]  And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.  [12]  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  [13]  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  [14]  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,  [15]  but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.  [16]  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'"  [17]  In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.  [ESV]

 

[14-16]  David was not to build the temple. It is always disappointing when a dreamed-for project, something that we assumed was visionary, is shown, at least as far as our own participation is concerned, to be just a dream and not God’s purpose for us after all. It is not an uncommon reaction to such a disappointment to feel rejected or even let down by God and to refuse to hear or accept any alternative future scenarios. But David did not react like this, rather he heard Nathan through to the end. As he listened on, he learned that not being appointed to a particular job was in no sense a rejection. God had by no means finished with him or with his family. On the contrary, he was presented with a clear affirmation of his leadership and of its ongoing results within both his own family and the whole nation of Israel. The David of chapter 7 seems much more humble and thoughtful and ready to heed God’s word than the exuberant and hasty figure of chapter 6. Perhaps he was beginning to benefit from his growing experience and from the lessons of his past. The term covenant is not used here, but God’s words were clearly understood in those terms by David. Psalm 89, which is closely linked to this chapter, also uses explicit covenant terminology. Almighty God was setting up a specific relationship with David and his descendants. This was not a replacement for the Abrahamic covenant with all of Abraham’s descendants. Indeed the promises to Abraham of a secured land and worldwide influence come to the fore during David’s reign, as Psalm 89 makes clear. Nor was it a replacement for the Sinaitic covenant instituted at the time of Moses. David and his descendants were in no way to be exempted from the requirements of that covenant. Rather, God had chosen them for the privilege of being his instruments in enabling Israel to live within that covenant. In the end, the Davidic covenant failed at the point where either David’s family or the people of Israel assumed that God’s relationship with the king was a replacement for His relationship with the people or that the responsibilities of the people could be taken over by the king. Any view of leadership that involves the leader relating to God on behalf of the people or taking over the responsibilities of the individual believer cannot be seen as adequately reflecting the biblical pattern. Within God’s message given via Nathan there is a five-fold focus. First, God has already chosen and blessed David, using him in the context of the ongoing choosing and blessing of Israel. Secondly, the choice of David to lead Israel involved also the choice of his descendants. Thirdly, David’s vision of a magnificent temple to be built for God would be fulfilled, but by David’s son rather than by David himself. Fourthly, no individual descendant of David could take their position for granted; those who failed in their responsibilities would certainly be punished. The father-son element of the relationship with God that was involved in the Davidic covenant also includes discipline. Fifthly, in spite of the possibility of individual failure there was an eternal element to God’s promise. David, through his descendants, would have a permanently significant place in God’s kingdom. The messianic implications of this passage are obvious to Christians but they are picked up elsewhere in the Old Testament too, notably by Jeremiah in chapter 33:14-17.

 

Acknowledge God’s Greatness:  2 Samuel 7:22-24.

 

[22]  Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.  [23]  And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods?  [24]  And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O LORD, became their God.  [ESV]

 

[22-24]  David marvels over sovereign grace and Yahweh’s gracious plan. David’s praise takes a different focus in verses 23-24. He describes Israel as a nation without peer but for David this only reflects Israel’s peerless God. David knows that Israel is unique because she is a redeemed people. This is the clear note in verse 23. Israel is the people whom God redeemed for yourself from Egypt. This one clause contains both poles of redemption: redeemed from and redeemed for or to. When Yahweh redeemed Israel He liberated them from bondage (Egypt) in order that they might belong to a new Master. Biblical redemption always involves both elements: liberation and possession. Yahweh revealed His power in smashing Egypt’s chains but revealed His purpose in binding Israel to Himself. If anything it is the latter aspect that our text stresses, for David’s first words about Israel are whom God went to redeem to be his people. We might say that Yahweh grants His people freedom but not independence; they are to belong to Him. Changing testaments changes nothing, for if we have been ransomed out of our empty way of life by Christ’s costly blood [1 Peter 1:18-19] we are not our own, precisely because we have been bought with a price [1 Cor. 6:19-20]. Yet this redeemed people is also a preserved people: And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. There are two code words in this statement. One is the verb established which is used three times in verses 12-16 when Yahweh promises He will establish the kingdom/throne of David and his descendants. The second eye-catcher is the term forever, which Yahweh also uses three times [13,16] to affirm the unlimited duration of David’s dynasty. So David recognizes that Israel is as permanent as his dynasty, not because they are so durable but because Yahweh intends to keep them. Finally, David declares that this redeemed and preserved people is, above all, a privileged people: And you, O Lord, became their God. These familiar sounding words are part of the Old Testament covenant formula which seems to reflect a marriage contract formula. Israel is the people who have Yahweh as their God. He redeems from bondage and keeps through history, but that is not enough for Yahweh. He gives Himself to Israel, to belong to them, to be their God. Here are Yahweh’s people – redeemed, preserved, privileged.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.         In the matter of a house, David was to be a passive recipient rather than an active initiator. Do you think there is a place for both in the Christian life, and which would you reckon to be primary? Think of ways you have seen this truth in your own Christian life.

 

2.         In verses 8-11, God gives two promises of grace to Israel and two to David. What are these promises? What is the relationship between these promises? How has God fulfilled these promises?

 

3.         God did not allow David to accomplish his vision for building God a temple. Instead, God emphasized His covenant promises to David. What were these promises and how does God indicate the certainly of the fulfillment of these promises? How did David react to God not allowing him to build the temple [see verses 22-24]

 

4.         What do we learn about the true meaning of Biblical redemption from verses 22-24? Who does the work of redemption? What is the purpose of our redemption?

 

References:

1, 2 Samuel, Robert Bergen, NAC, Broadman.

2 Samuel, Dale Davis, Christian Focus.

The Message of Samuel, Mary Evans, Inter Varsity Press.

1, 2 Samuel, Ronald Youngblood, EBC, Zondervan.